Perhaps no other game has so many details which are all important as it is in cricket. Every element of the game right from the weather to the color of the ball influences the game in some way. The pink-colored ball is made similar to the traditional red ball with cork core and leather stitched outer cover.
The difference is in the dyeing. The leather for red balls is dyed whereas the pink color is painted on the leather. This is because pink is not readily absorbed by the leather. The seam of the pink cricket ball is similar to the red ball.
What is the Need for a Pink Ball?
There was no reason to change the color of the ball till day & night test matches started to be played. For the one-day matches played during day and night, the white balls were the ideal choice.
They are very much visible under the floodlights. But the white balls could not be used for the day & night test matches.
Test cricket is played in a white dress and hence the white balls will not be visible. The red balls are not visible under the floodlights.
The white balls become dirty very fast. Unlike one-day matches, the ball cannot be changed till the 80 overs have been bowled in test cricket.
Other colors were suggested and tried before pink became the color of choice for day & night test cricket matches.
The color and the ball have been found to last the mandatory 80 overs without much discoloration. The color has been tested by the cricket authorities and players alike and found to be satisfactory.
The Evolution of the Pink Cricket Ball
MCC requested the cricket ball manufacturers to produce a pink colored ball that could be used for both test and first-class matches played during the day and night. The idea of the pink ball came when the ball made by Kookaburra was used in a charity match.
Pink was not a color that was chosen by chance. A lot of other colors were tested before settling on pink. The colors that had the maximum support were yellow and fluorescent orange as they are visible in the darkness.
But watching these colors on TV was not very comfortable for viewers and they were difficult to be picked up. That is how pink came to be selected.
There are many shades of pink that were tried out. 16 shades of pink were tested.
The pink that was used in the first test in 2015 has also undergone some changes. As testing of balls is a continuous process some changes keep happening.
Getting the Seam Right
The seam is very important in the cricket ball. The color of the seam in a red ball is white for both outer and inner seam. A green outer seam and white inner seam adorn the white ball. It was the same color used for the first pink ball. The balls were tested by various players.
The players were of the opinion that the colors on the pink balls didn’t bring out the contrast as it did on the white balls. This is when the color of the seams was changed to black. The change was appreciated by the players.
The Making of the Pink Cricket Ball
The making of any cricket ball starts with the core which is made of cork. This is covered with a layer of string wound around it. There are strict regulations for the size and weight of the core as it will affect the final weight of the cricket ball.
What affects the performance of the ball is the outer covering which is made of cowhide. The cowhide is cored so that there is no bacterial breakdown.
It is also salted and then kept ready for tanning. The tanning method is alum tanning which is centuries. The advantage is that it makes the leather durable and easier to dye.
The skins are dried slowly and shaved to achieve a uniform thickness. Then they are processed again for making them supple and ready for dyeing.
It is the dye that gives the balls their color. The dyes are mixed with water and applied on the surface of the leather in the case of red balls. This where the other colored balls differ.
How the Color Affects Performance
The red ball has a coating of liquid wax and shellac. By polishing the shellac and wax wear off and allow the grains of the leather to show up.
As the red aniline dye is not fast it can be seen on the white dresses of the players when polishing. As we know polishing has a lot to do with the performance of the ball.
The pink and white balls are colored using resin pigment. As the red dye, this also starts fading when polished. But these colors are not absorbed deep and hence the ball loses its color.
To prevent this, the manufacturers apply cellulose lacquer or polyurethane on the balls. This will prevent the polishing from affecting the grains and giving any benefit to the bowler.
Why is pink ball used over Red or White Balls in Day-Night test cricket?
Pink ball is used over white and red balls as it has a perfect contrast with the player’s white clothing and better visibility under Yellow floodlights during a day-night match while Red looks brownish under Yellow floodlights and that is pretty close to the color of the pitch which can confuse the batsman.
How do manufacturers ensure the color of pink balls doesn’t fade away fast?
Manufacturers use cellulose lacquer or polyurethane on the Pink balls to prevent the polishing from being affected and the color from being faded.
What is the reason behind keeping the Seam color as black on Pink balls?
In the beginning, Pink ball had a green outer Seam and a White inner Seam just as in the White ball. However, many players thought that it didn’t quite bring out the contrast as it did on the White balls. This is the reason that it was soon changed to Black.
What’s the difference between a Red Ball and a Pink Ball?
The only difference between a Red ball and a Pink ball apart from their difference in color is the way they are colored. While the leather of a Red ball is dyed, Pink color is painted on the leather in the case of Pink balls since Pink is not readily absorbed by the leather.
While the pink ball has been found satisfactory in testing, it has not been able to get the same performance of the red ball.
While the Kookaburra balls are coming quite close to the performance it has still not been able to match the red balls. The particular way in which red balls are dyed is the main reason for this.
Mitchell Stark will remain in history as the bowler who used the pink ball for the first time in international cricket. But research on the pink ball will continue by the ball manufacturers and let us hope that one day it will achieve the status of the red ball.